M A I N   N E W S

Centre to review security curbs affecting J-K tourism
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 5
The government plans to undertake a comprehensive review of a range of security-based restrictions that are hampering the tourism potential of Jammu and Kashmir.

A working group comprising members of the ministries of Home, Defence, External Affairs, the Indian Mountaineering Foundation and the state government is likely to be set up for the purpose.

Indications to this effect came after the PM’s Expert Group on Employment in J&K flagged off issue of restricted access to several areas of Ladakh. This has an adverse effect on the state’s tourism, including the matter involving certain Indian embassies in The Netherlands and France issuing restrictive visa notes for Ladakh to foreigners travelling to India.

The issue surfaced during the committee’s discussions with the travel operators of Ladakh. “Some of them pointed out that the visa notes of some foreign nationals, especially from The Netherlands and France, were being restricted in an uneven manner, which was being interpreted differently — sometimes to restrict the visa holders’ stay in Ladakh to 15 days, sometimes to bar their entry into areas requiring inner line permits right away. Inner line permits for everyone, including Indian tourists, are issued by the authority designated by the Home Ministry here, not by the Indian embassies abroad. We enquired the problem, about which there seemed to be little knowledge. So we flagged the issue. The MoD, MHA and MEA will sit together with the state and sort this out on priority,” sources in the PM’s Economic Advisory Council, whose chairperson C Rangarajan headed the job panel, today told The Tribune.

The working group would also look into the feasibility of allowing the tourists to use satellite phones in inner areas (hitherto this permission is not there). The issue gained importance after last year’s Ladakh floods where several tourists remained stranded for long due to lack of communication network.

Besides, the C Rangarajan report has also recommended to the government to review the restrictions on inner line permits currently granted only for a week. “Anyone wanting to stay longer has to return to Leh and apply again to the district commissioner, who is authorised to grant the permits. This discourages the tourists from coming to Ladakh,” PT Kunzang, president of Ladakh Tourist Trade Alliance said.

A review has also been sought for the rule which requires all expeditions in the Eastern Karakoram to have an equal number of Indians and foreigners.





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